Oscar Ritchie Hall is honored

Rededication looks back on 40 years

Forty years ago, Kent State founded the Department of Pan-African Studies as a result of a walk-out by the Black United Students, who demanded a black studies program be created. Now, not only has Kent State expanded the department, but Pan-African Studies also has its own building, Oscar Ritchie Hall – and a renovated one at that.

Today, Oscar Ritchie Hall will be rededicated in a program starting at 4 p.m. in the African Community Theatre located in the building. The rededication marks the completion of the $10.4 million renovation project and the 40th anniversary of the Department of Pan-African Studies. The ribbon-cutting ceremony did not take place last fall, when the building opened, because there were still internal projects that needed to be completed, said Sandra Morgan, outreach program director for the College of Arts and Sciences.

As a result of the BUS walk-out, the Institute for African American Affairs was established in 1969. IAAA moved from a one-room office in Kent Hall to the second floor of Lowry Hall and finally found its home in the old student center, which is now Oscar Ritchie Hall.

E. Timothy Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and 1971’s BUS president, said there was a need for the program because “it is very important for all of us (society) to know about all of us.”

He added that when he was growing up in Cleveland, he knew nothing about his heritage. After taking Pan-African courses, Moore said he felt he finally had the evidence to prove and disprove beliefs he held about “African and African-American people.”

The rededication is part of the Homecoming weekend and the Centennial Celebration for Kent State.

Morgan said throughout this year, Kent State will highlight important things that shaped the university and education in general. Oscar Ritchie Hall is included in this celebration because of the building, but also the significance of Oscar Ritchie himself.

Oscar Ritchie was the first black person to be appointed as a professor on any university campus in Ohio. Appointing him in 1947 was “a very brave position for Kent State to take at the time,” Morgan said. She added that to this day, she receives numerous e-mails from people who were affected by him.

Edmund Cooke Jr., a partner at law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Washington, D.C., will be the keynote speaker of the program. He will speak about his experiences as a former student who was mentored by Oscar Ritchie.

Contact diversity reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].